By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
The Little Falls City Council approved a loan of sorts to get the groundwork ready for $100,000 worth of donated playground equipment.
When the engineer’s proposed prices for development of a recreational complex for the 22-acre piece of property donated by the Minnesota Department of Transportation came in, they were a bit steep, even for just the playground.
At an earlier meeting, Public Works Director Jerry Lochner had presented the Council with an alternative price plan for Phase 1 and 1A. With city staff doing much of the work, the cost went from $98,000 to $17,000 to prepare the area for the equipment.
This does not include any chipped wood or rubber mulch to go under the pieces of equipment, which may cost from $5,000 – $20,000, depending upon which type of material is used.
A stipulation made by Paul and Emily Twitchell when they donated the $100,000 for the playground equipment was that the work be done this spring.
Another is that the playground be put on the piece of land, valued at $100,000, donated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The 22 acres of land which starts at a point near Living Hope Church is targeted not only for the playground, but for much more in the future. The Twitchells also requested it be named in their daughter’s honor, Taylor Chebet Twitchell.
But, first things first. Phase 1 and Phase 1A of the entire project, is the playground portion.
Lochner’s proposal that city staff do the work at the reduced rate has come after months of discussion and requests for the Council’s support. The requests that have come to the Council have been for its support and go-ahead, but not for funding for the project.
Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder made a very specific motion: City crews could work to prepare the ground for the playground equipment, at a cost not to exceed $17,000, and that every dollar would be repaid with funds raised through private donations or grants.
Councilman Greg Zylka felt the Council needed to decide how far it wanted to go with the project.
“Don’t look back,” said Councilman Jeremy Hanfler. “Full steam ahead.”
Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said if the money isn’t raised to move past Phase 1 and Phase 1A, the project wouldn’t move further.
The Mayors Youth Task Force will continue to see the project completed as part of the splash pad and skate park project,” said VanRisseghem. The group will seek grants and will keep in touch with a newly-formed group that has come together to raise funds for the park.
Adam Fjeld, who has been involved in making the playground a reality, showed the Council a preliminary sketch of the playground equipment design by Pat Faust of Landscape Structures Inc. (LSI), Delano.
Fjeld said that one piece of equipment featured was the “zip line” just out on the market and worth $12,000 — that piece of equipment was donated by LSI. The zip line is 66 feet long and offers kids the feeling of flying.
Public Works Director Jerry Lochner said work will begin in the spring, depending upon weather conditions.
The $17,000 includes labor and materials for the parking lot, black dirt and shaping the site so it drains properly and is set up for the playground and future equipment, as well as a parking lot.
The playground is phase 1 of a recreational complex that will include a splash pad, all-skate park and more, as funds are raised.
Little Falls Council Briefs
In other business Monday, the Little Falls City Council:
• Received a letter from City Attorney Toni Wetzel reiterating that the city is under signed contract with its current garbage/recycling haulers through 2016 and, under a decision made in 1994, residents who, for whatever reason, are gone from their property and request city services be suspended while their property is vacant, will be billed a minimum charge for water and sewer and an administrative fee for garbage/recycling;
• Learned new signs have been ordered that will be used to prohibit parking on certain streets at certain times to accommodate plowing the snow to make the streets wider;
• Agreed Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder could bring before the Council proposed costs for an attorney’s agreement for the city to donate money to help improve the beach on Green Prairie Fish Lake. The fear is the attorneys’ costs would be greater than what the city would actually donate. Councilman Frank Gosiak also asked whether the county chipped in any money for the beach. Crowder offered to find that out as well;
• Learned that requests for proposal had been sent out in the search for a planning and zoning consultant. Staff will conduct interviews and make recommendations to the Council;
• Decided to use a temporary handicapped parking sign Tuesdays only, to create another handicapped parking space near Falls Court. Additional handicapped parking on that block, reduces the amount of parking available for businesses on that street. Come spring, the Council will decide whether to add another permanent spot, possibly around the corner in the shade;
• Asked staff to find out the process of redistricting the city and get the advice of the city attorney. With the recent annexation of more than 400 into the city, the number of people in each ward is no longer close to equal;
• Learned City Engineer Don Anderson is transitioning into retirement and that Tim Houle of Widseth Smith Nolting will be helping with the transition;
• Approved the resignation of Joyce Kamrowski from the Sister City Committee and George VanRisseghem from the Library Board. Replacements will be Lisa Sherwood on the Sister City Committee and Charlie Peterka on the Library Board;
• Since the Golf Advisory Board hasn’t met in two years, appointed Jeremy Hanfler as a liaison to the Golf Extravaganza Committee, which raises funds for the golf course; and
• Authorized the installation of ornamental street lights in the city’s historic downtown district.
Due to the President’s Day holiday Feb. 17, the next meeting for the Little Falls City Council is Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.